Michigan Dam Safety Task Force Releases its Final Report

By March 1, 2021 News

Responding to two dam failures on the Tittabawassee River during record rainfall events that caused catastrophic flooding in Midland and Gladwin counties in May of 2020 that resulted in $250 million in damages, in addition to the fact that the impounded waters of both Wixom and Sanford Lakes were completely drained during the event, Governor Whitmer formed the Michigan Dam Safety Task Force in order to perform a comprehensive review of the status of Michigan’s 2,500 dams. Comprised of dam safety officials, engineers, senior state agency managers and tribal representatives, the 19-member task force recently issued its report comprised of a set of 86 recommendations that includes quadrupling the number of EGLE staff members dedicated to dam safety regulation; hiring additional dam safety inspectors; establishing a $25 million dam safety emergency fund over the course of the next five years; creating a $25 million dam safety emergency fund over the next five years; and establishing a 20-year, $400 million loan fund dedicated to helping dam owners with much-needed maintenance on aging, crumbling, high-risk dams. In addition, the Dam Safety Task Force also recommended that the Michigan state legislature act to help promote dam owner accountability by revising and adapting new laws and rules that would act to clarify the on-going responsibilities of dam owners, and the structural engineers they hire to help inspect and maintain the dams.  Click here to download a copy of the 69-page Michigan Dam Safety Task Force Report that was released on February 12, 2021.

It is important to note that most of Michigan’s 2,500 dams were built many decades ago, and are now in a state of severe deterioration as a result of age, antiquated design, severe erosion, and/or neglect as indicated by the fact that many of the dams have been poorly maintained over the years. Dams in Michigan are regulated by Part 307, Inland Lake Levels, and Part 315, Dam Safety, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 Public Act 451. Of Michigan’s 2,500 dams, 813 of which are regulated by Part 315, and 235 are regulated by Part 307.  Dams are regulated by Part 315 when they are over 6 feet in height, and when they serve to impound over 5 acres of water during the design flood.  Dams regulated by Part 307 are structures that were constructed in order to establish and maintain court ordered inland lake levels. Michigan also hosts 99 hydroelectric dams that are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) under the auspices of the Federal Power Act.

To view an Arc Geographic Information Systems information augmented map of dams regulated by the State of Michigan that is maintained by the Department of the Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) Dam Safety Program, click here . Readers interested in learning more about EGLE’s  Dam Safety Program